74 Miles Away – About finding and growing

Foto: Benjamin Menedetter
The Belgian band 74 Miles Away is fusing classical Jazz elements with electronic, MPC-generated beats. Valentin Menedetter had the pleasure of talking to them.

Some people might be familiar with Cannonball Adderley’s record 74 Miles Away. Nowadays this name also stands for a band from Belgium, which is fusing classical Jazz elements with electronic, MPC-generated beats. Jazz Pianist Pierre Anckaert and Monkey Robot (formerly known as Infinitskills) teamed up to explore each other’s genres. The result is 74 Miles Away, a group that understands to put the focus on the jazzy Fender Rhodes sound but doesn’t miss out on the beat driven part that propels them to the levels of a dope live act.

How did you guys find each other?
Pierre Anckaert: I’ve known Luis since a long time – we played together. From our early teenage years on. We had a band together – he was always more into the beat thing whereas I was more on the Jazz side. Luis asked me if I was interested in recording in his studio at the time, with my trio. Then he offered to remix some tracks together with Eric and that’s how I met Monkey Robot. We have a flute player with us nowadays, Stefan Bracaval – he’s becoming a permanent member of the group.

So you are still growing?
LuiGi: Actually we are still growing. If you look back at the album – there were four original tracks and four remixes and now it’s a blend of them and there is not a lot left of the actual record when we are playing live. We are evolving every week and we are writing new songs. So it’s a symbiosis of the styles and for Pierre it was also a new door that was opened up. For us, the Jazz thing was a new experience as well. We are blending them together. We don’t have a set way – we’re still finding our way. It feels like we have the right combination now.

»If you just make beats then the beat heads are going to like it but we want to reach a broader audience and we think that this is working through electronic music.«

Eric P
Is there an advantage in the fusion of the two genres?
Eric P.: I think that the album is a good introduction to the band. We have the Jazz thing on the one side and the electronic on the other. It makes people curious what we sound like. When you come to see us live you will see that not everything is mapped out. We are trying new things on stage and just go with the flow. In the beginning it was just Hip Hop beats but we decided to open up and dive into different genres. Ultimately we want to make people dance. We don’t want them to get bored. Because if you just make beats then the beat heads are going to like it but we want to reach a broader audience and we think that this is working through electronic music.

Pierre, since you are a Jazz musician, was it hard for you to adapt to electronic music?
Pierre Anckaert: No because I may be categorized as a Jazz musician, but of course I’m following all types of stuff and listen to different things. I was always really interested in the history of Hip Hop. I’ve recorded two acoustic albums prior to the time with Monkey Robot. During that period I felt the urge to explore electronic music, which is really different. This band is a possibility to evolve. As a band we have to opportunity to be different from the studio productions that we are known for. So the contrast between those two worlds is what we have to focus on.

What role does Cannonball with his 74 Miles Away record play for you?
Eric P.: We were actually looking for a name, we tried a couple of names – nothing really worked and I was listening to that record at the time. There is one track that we play, called 74, and it’s based on the track of the album. It became obvious that this was the name for the album. Then it became the band’s name. But Adderley is a big influence, as far as I’m concerned.
Pierre Anckaert:
It’s also a reference to the different styles – they come from totally different directions than me. Luis may be a buffer person because he’s also playing drums and Eric is playing the guitar – so we tried to reach out to each other and eventually found a recipe to work together.

How do you write your stuff?
We bring ideas to the table, rhythm patterns and samples, stuff like that – we show each other what we have. Most of the time Pierre is adapting the music to the keys and writes out sheets. So we have a global structure, then we fine-tune it together. It’s always the three of us working together. We try to adapt and build from that – we like to listen to each other. It goes back and forth between Pierre and us, and that’s what makes it interesting – otherwise it would always be the same recipe.